The Technicolor vista of the Emerald City is one that most are familiar with. But I suspect only the trivia nerds and well-read among us are aware that the city in L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz is actually “no more green than any other city.” This is because everyone in the Emerald City is forced to wear tinted eyeglasses (which are propagated to protect its inhabitants’ eyes from the “brightness and glory” of the city). For everyone there—looking through those lenses, they see an emerald city.
I think that the metaphor of “lens” is largely overused. It is used so much in everyday speech that people forget it is even a metaphor or what the metaphor conveys. It is hard to grasp the import of “examining the world through different lenses” or “trying to see a situation through someone else’s lens” or “understanding life through the Christian lens” when we hear the phrases so much. To remind myself of what the comparison to a lens really means, I sometimes think of a fisheye lens and the way it drastically changes one’s perspective of reality. But mostly, I think of the emerald sunglasses from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a particular filter that light must enter through, and everything is thus made green.
When seeking to understand reality and life through the Christian lens, we must first realize that the Christian lens is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. When seeking to know the meaning of life, trying to understand the happenings of each day, conversing and relating to people in our community, and even making breakfast, we must filter it all through the lens of Jesus.
NYC preacher Timothy Keller relates our filter to rewatching the Sixth Sense. After you’ve seen the end and know that Bruce Willis [SPOILER, but you seriously should already know this] has been dead the entire time, you cannot help but watch the entire movie in light of that fact. Everyone is looking through him; everything makes sense that way.
We must train our eyes and our mind to see everything in light of the redeeming life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We strive to become weak in a world of strength—in every dimension of our life: in our relationships, in our work, when we are driving to the grocery store. We live knowing that life is a gift of grace, given by the same one who gave the ultimate gift. It all goes back to Christ.
Part of this means the rest of Scripture must be interpreted through the life of Christ. The Old Testament is read in anticipation for the Gospel and the Epistles are read in celebration of the Gospel. All of the moral teachings found in the other 62 books must pass through the lens of Jesus. However they come out on the other side—oblong or obtuse, cultural or literal—that is how they must be interpreted. Moses and even Paul are not our final philosophers and ethicists, but the Son of God is.
We need to slip on our theological eyeglasses, by which we can see all of creation. With Jesus as our lens, everything has value—animals, governments, poor people, environments, celebrities, money, time, souls—and everything is holy. Christ will guide us to better living, to sacrifice and to gain. Christ must be our all.